After the Manchester United v Liverpool game at the weekend, Brendan Rodgers said something that really caught my attention. He said: “We are not 24 points behind in terms of quality, the points difference is due to the squad and once we close the gaps in the squad in the coming windows, I have great faith we will be able to challenge.” This was in reference to Manchester United, who, for the first 45 minutes of that game on Sunday, looked like a team capable of winning out on a score of 4-0 or 5-0. When Rodgers came to Liverpool, he brought all this ambition and there was a feeling of a new dawn for Liverpool FC, a new style of playing and a new bunch of young players capable of bringing the club back to the glory days of the 80’s. While there have been very prominent signs of this young squad with so much potential, what Rodgers said on Sunday effectively admitted that these young players will not be good enough to challenge Manchester United, that the integration of young players will only go some of the way and the rest will need to be made up by transfers. But really, isn’t this the same old Liverpool attitude that brought Dalglish’s Liverpool to 6th and subsequently 8th? Where is this new attitude of trusting the new generation gone?
Another point on that too is that Liverpool’s quality, that apparently isn’t 24 points behind Manchester United’s, was so outplayed by Manchester United in the first half of the game on Sunday that if United had taken their chances, the introduction of Daniel Sturridge would have been about as significant in terms of the result as me turning the volume up on the television. Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck were outstanding, as was Michael Carrick, but to name a few. Liverpool were better in the second half, no doubt about it, but really, the class told to be honest. United’s forwards were too hot to handle for the Liverpool defenders, and only when Daniel Sturridge came on for Liverpool did they come anywhere close to scoring. I think, therefore, the statement by Rodgers simply isn’t true. Liverpool, in that first half, had nobody close to the quality in the Manchester United team. Also, United were missing Rooney.
But back to Rodgers and his dream. What is evident from Sunday’s match is that the only way Liverpool can catch up to Manchester United is to go and buy “ready-made” first teamers. I hope, for the sake of Liverpool FC, that this is a temporary fix. If they don’t get the balance right, they could end up at one extreme or the other. these extremes are both demonstrated by Premier League clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea. The first extreme, demonstrated by Arsenal, is the trusting of youth to the point where the team lacks experience and mental strength and even when they get into a winning position, they usually crumble under the pressure. The second extreme is demonstrated by Chelsea, the opposite of that, where they refuse to plan for the future and only buy players that won’t get much better, usually for a very expensive price. However, which club, Arsenal or Chelsea, usually finishes higher in the Premier League, who gets further in Europe, and the domestic cups? Chelsea, no doubt about it. Arsenal since they started buying only young players have been nowhere the standard of Chelsea since the money of Roman Abramovich came into play. Now, what has contributed to this success so much has also cost Abramovich somewhere in the region of the hundred millions, edging closer to a billion every transfer window. What Liverpool have to do in this stage of transition is get the balance right between these extremes. They must not start sacrificing the club’s best players and transfer prospects because they are over their mid 20’s. However, they must not give up on investing in youth. Just look at Manchester United. Whenever big players at United reach their late 20’s, they aren’t shown the door automatically. That said, they have invested in the future heavily, such as the likes of Welbeck, Hernandez, De Gea, Smalling, Jones, Evans, Young. These players are probably going to be at the club for the next 10 years. The funds provided to United are obviously at the moment something Liverpool can’t afford to do. So, for the time being, while they get rid of the sub-standard players and players that are too old, they must trust the likes of Gerrard, Reina, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, as well as mixing it with the current young talent Sterling, Sturridge, Kelly, Allen, and I’m going to count Suarez in that, too. The Premier League experience provided by the more senior players is vital, and getting rid of players that are too old is something that can’t be done overnight. One or two at a time is plenty. The experienced players I have mentioned all have years to go until retirement, so now is the time they get the balance right. Give the younger players the experience now, so when they get rid of the older players, the experience won’t suddenly disappear. They must still keep the older players involved, as, for Liverpool anyway, they are probably better footballers, and also, their experience is very important.
Liverpool FC is under a big transition stage, that was not helped by the reckless spending of Benitez, Hodgson and Dalglish. It may go on for 10 years, but it probably won’t because I feel Rodgers has the right idea. His policy is admirable, but to put it into practice and turn the club around would be an outstanding achievement. If done right, it would put Liverpool at the forefront of English football for many years. However, the owner and the board of directors need to trust their manager. They must trust him not just for this season, or for two seasons, but for eight seasons or even 10 seasons. Immediate success is simply not going to happen with the funds available to Rodgers. He is the right man for the job and his dream needs to be trusted, but the big question in the football world we live in where everyone is so impatient, will he be given the time and the money? Let’s hope so, the fans deserve it.